How can teachers compete with cell phones, social media and other distractions?

ASU researchers look at engaging students with current events

June 17, 2016

Teachers at every level struggle at times with keeping students engaged. But starting a lesson with a current event and questions to consider might better engage both students and educators.

Consider Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. The contamination of Flint’s water supply can be explored from a variety of perspectives — interpreting data, exploring cause-and-effect relationships or even discussing the long-term impact of using bottled water to replace tap water. Questions on the issue that could be used in classrooms to teach many subjects include: Download Full Image

• How do we know the water is contaminated?

• How much fresh water is used in Flint schools each week?

• Is clean drinking water a right, or a privilege?

With funding from the Bezos Family Foundation, Annie Warren, director of research and development at ASU’s Biodesign Institute; Leanna Archambault, associate professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; and Lee Hartwell, ASU-affiliated faculty, and Nobel Prize recipient (in physiology), are leading a team in developing an online tool kit for educators focused on sustainability education. The grant supports development of a Teaching Time Capsule, a tool for K–8 teachers to weave sustainability into existing course materials.

“Sustainability is something we hope teachers will work into every lesson so that it becomes a way of thinking for young people. It’s not a separate activity. Sustainability can be a part of all topics,” said Warren.

This Teaching Time Capsule will be an interactive website providing access to teaching tools related to current events and other appropriate topics. By aligning the content with current education standards, Archambault said, the team hopes to make topics transferable across the curriculum.

Hartwell, Warren and Archambault are working with 25 other professionals in ASU’s office of Sustainability Science Education to create and implement the Teaching Time Capsule. These colleagues make up the Sustainability Science Education Project Team, founded in 2011 and focused on sustainability science for the future through education of teachers.

“Sustainability is simply a way to look at an issue or a problem,” said Warren. “By discreetly putting sustainability into play while studying any social issue, teachers can creatively teach young people to consider implications of the many possible solutions to an issue and also to have a sense of wonder and curiosity about how problems came to be and what we can do, moving forward, to solve or prevent them.”

The time capsule will have two components. One will be free content, such as lesson plans, all tied to state and national standards. The other will be more enhanced materials for which users pay a nominal fee to download and modify.

Two online continuing education classes will also be available, so teachers can enroll and take advantage of the content without traveling or sacrificing classroom and personal time to grow and learn, Warren said. The team has hopes of expanding the online professional development opportunities over time.

Archambault emphasized that this project will include longitudinal research: “We’ve been wanting to track our results and see where we may have an impact because we never want to just assume that because we do something, we are making a difference. We want to find out what works and why.”

The website content will be developed in part by ASU alumni who are now teaching. They will share expertise and content they have already created and used with students.

“Teachers are passionate about making the world a better place and that is what sustainability is all about,” Archambault said. “You don’t have to be passionate about every issue, but just be aware and know how to think about sustainability alongside other topics,” she said. “Teachers can reach educators and policymakers of the future, so infusing sustainability into lessons will prepare children to be successful leaders one day. We enhance our shared future by creating and making available resources for sustainability education.”

Copy writer, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College


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The healing effects of yoga

Study participants use online yoga to help deal with grief or cancer symptoms.
Yoga helped ASU prof with her grief from stillbirth; she hopes to help others.
June 16, 2016

ASU researcher studying how online yoga can help those dealing with grief of stillbirth or symptoms of a rare blood cancer

Jennifer Huberty didn’t give much thought to the healing effects of yoga — until she lost her child.

It was Jan. 27, 2011, and the ASU health researcher was about to give birth to her first daughter, Raine Madilynne Huberty. She was 39½ weeks pregnant and looked up at the monitor, which revealed her 8-pound, 4-ounce child was not alive.

Raine was stillborn.

“I remember looking at my husband and he was crying. I was in disbelief, yelling at the health-care providers, asking them how this could happen,” said Huberty (pictured above, center), an associate professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion in the College of Health Solutions.

“Giving birth to Raine was the most devastating experience, and I will never forget any moment of that morning.”

Huberty tried grief counseling a few times but quit because it wasn’t doing much for her. She switched to yoga to deal with her grief and discovered it helped.

She thought if it worked for her, it could work for others.

Huberty and her team will be receiving a grant of just under $500,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a study investigating the effects of yoga on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after stillbirth.

They’ve already completed a nine-month beta feasibility test of a home-based online-streaming yoga intervention for women who have experienced stillbirth. Twenty participants between the ages of 19 and 44 completed the study; all were women who had experienced a stillbirth within the previous two years. A majority of them reported symptoms of PTSD and depression prior to beginning the study.

online yoga class

Feasibility-study participants accessed
online yoga courses through,
the only yoga website participating in
active research, according to ASU
associate professor Jennifer Huberty.

Photos courtesy of

Stillbirth presents a sixfold increased risk for PTSD and a fourfold risk for depression when compared with live, healthy births, research has shownAccording to a research article Huberty co-wrote with Jason Coleman, Katherine Rolfsmeyer and Serena Wu called "A qualitative study exploring women's beliefs about physical activity after stillbirth." (Published November 14, 2014). PTSD and/or depression may contribute to a variety of health problems, including weight retention or gain, increased risk of chronic disease, premature mortality, stress, anxiety and sleep quality.

Mary Queen, who was 36 when she went through a stillbirth in 2012, said she experienced almost all of those symptoms after the death of Rayna, one of her twin daughters. Queen was 38 weeks along and had a C-section scheduled in the afternoon. Her daughter Sara came out fine, but Rayna was stillborn; the doctor said the umbilical cord had gotten wrapped around her neck.

“Many people said to me, ‘Well, you still have a healthy baby,’ but they don’t understand I still suffered the loss of a child,” Queen said from her home in Charleston, West Virginia. “Every time Sara celebrates a milestone, Rayna should have been there with her. I might smile on the outside, but I feel horrible on the inside.

“After you suffer a loss like that, you live in a parallel world of ‘what if?’ My life is now divided into before Rayna and after Rayna. I still get bothered.”

Queen said the next few months were a blur and she fell into a dark place. She said her 3-year-old child and baby Sara were the only things that kept her going. A year later she give birth to another set of twins but couldn’t shake off the loss of Rayna.

When she discovered the online yoga study through a Facebook site, she thought it might make a difference. It has.

“Boy, did it whip my butt,” Queen said, who did up to three 60-minute yoga sessions a week at her peak. “What I liked most about it was that it makes you concentrate on your breathing. During those times I didn’t think about Rayna, and it allowed my brain to shut off for a while. I felt a whole lot better and only saw benefits from taking online yoga.”

Jeni Matthews, a physical activity, nutrition and wellness doctoral student in the College of Health Solutions and yoga instructor who assisted Huberty with the study, said yoga is highly individualized and can be modified for any activity level.

“You don’t have to do it all at once; you can do yoga in smaller increments of time,” Matthews said. “Most of the benefit doesn’t come from the physical part but the breathing and meditation. The important part of yoga is for patients to take the time to practice self-care and quiet the mind.”

“What I liked most about it was that it makes you concentrate on your breathing. During those times I didn’t think about Rayna, and it allowed my brain to shut off for a while.”
— Mary Queen, online-yoga study participant whose daughter was stillborn

Participants access the online yoga sessions through, which was created by film producer and yogi Yariv Lerner. The site offers a library of more than 400 classes, fitness programs and health and wellness challenges. It’s also the only yoga website participating in active research, according to Huberty.

“I didn’t have any funding to conduct the beta test for the feasibility study that is being funded by NIH. I reached out to Yariv and asked him if he would be willing to donate the memberships for mothers of stillbirth,” Huberty said. “He generously and graciously agreed. The chief operating officer, Patty Van de Bogart, supported the entire study without compensation. They were, and still are, an amazing support for the work I am doing.”

Huberty has learned that the recuperative powers of yoga are far-reaching and will seek an additional $2.5 million grant from the NIH in the next year in partnership with Mayo. This time it will be to examine the effects of yoga on symptom burdenSymptom burden refers to the physical and emotional toll of disease and its treatments. in Myeloproliferative Neoplasm (MPN) patients, which is a rare blood cancer.

In a feasibility study Huberty recently conducted with 30 MPN patients over a 12-week period, there was a significant improvement in symptom burden, depressive symptoms, anxiety and sleep. Ryan Eckert, an exercise and wellness master’s student in the College of Health Solutions, shared, “MPN patients felt that one of the most beneficial aspects of the online yoga was the breathing. They learned how to incorporate breathing techniques into their daily lives and are benefiting from this.”

Fifty-seven-year-old Marty Paciocco was diagnosed with MPN two years ago after she got a checkup for severe vertigo, migraine headaches and double vision. While fatigue was also a symptom, she thought that was because she was overworked and stressed at her job.

“I’d come home from work and spend most evenings on the couch and weekends resting and relaxing, gearing up for the week,” said Paciocco, a mental-health and substance-use counselor who lives in Amherst County in Virginia. “I just assumed my age and stress were slowing me down.”

Although Paciocco’s MPN numbers became manageable over time, she still had to deal with fatigue. She discovered the study through a listserv and decided to make a commitment to improve her health.

“Most of the videos were short and I could close my door in my office, move my desk and follow along,” Paciocco said. “My energy level is much better, and physically it feels good to stretch my body. Yoga also slows my brain down and allows me to take a mental break from my work.”

Huberty said the new ASU/Mayo study would investigate the efficacy of online-streaming yoga to reduce fatigue and improve quality of life as compared with a wait-list control group in MPN patients. Additionally, it will explore the feasibility of collecting blood biomarkers that may be associated with fatigue in MPN patients participating in an online yoga intervention.

“As a health professional, it’s wonderful when you can do something for the common good and reach so many people in many places,” Huberty said. “If it’s not going to help people lead a healthier life, then it’s a miss. Luckily for all involved, this is a can’t-miss.”

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Testing the waters of global perception

Cross-cultural research can help us learn water-conservation solutions.
June 10, 2016

ASU project hopes to uncover workable water conservation, distribution strategies

In January 2000, the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, signed a deal to privatize its water supply. Protests erupted with such intensity they became known as la Guerra del Agua — the Water War. Handing over utility rights to the U.S.-based Bechtel Corporation caused water prices to spike dramatically. Thousands of people were left unable to afford the new rates. They flooded the streets, took over the central plaza and demanded removal of the private company’s hold on their water.

As time went on, protests continued and the situation in Cochabamba progressively worsened. Roads to and from the city were sealed off as the national government declared martial law. Protesters took on the Bolivian army, refusing to back down. They claimed that access to affordable water is a human right, and they wanted it back. Many went to prison or into hiding, and some were killed.

Three months went by before the Bolivian government agreed to protesters’ demands. On April 10, officials reassigned control of the water supply to La Coordinadora, a grassroots coalition that had sprung up in response to the privatization agreement. This was a great victory for the people, but far from the end of their water woes.

Living on the brink

Several years after the onset of the Water War, Amber Wutich traveled to Cochabamba for her doctoral research. She lived in a squatter settlement there for more than a year, working with locals to study water-scarcity issues. Many people in the area were struggling enormously to meet their basic needs.

“Some of them barely had enough water to survive, which is 15 liters per person per day,” said Wutich, now an associate professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.That 15-liter (about 4 gallons) estimate comes from the World Health Organization and includes the most basic food and hygiene needs. To put things in perspective, a 10-minute shower requires about 19 liters of water.  

“I saw people wait for hours to collect two buckets of water from a community system. I saw people miss work and run behind water vendors’ trucks, begging them to sell their families a barrel of water,” she said.

Wutich recalls when her field team went out to take photos at a nearly dry riverbed. Upstream, she saw taxi drivers use what little water was available to wash their vehicles and then dump the used water back into the river. A little way downstream, Wutich saw a man use the riverbed as a makeshift latrine. Down even further, the group observed some women and girls washing their family’s clothes in the same water. And downstream still was a mother bathing her toddlers.

“This illustrates how many dimensions of the water problem — absolute water scarcity, inadequate water treatment, the absence of institutions governing the uses of the river, extreme poverty — all added up to create significant personal hardships and health risks for people living in the squatter settlement,” Wutich said.

Watery deserts, thirsty tropics

After completing her doctoral research, Wutich accepted a research position at ASU and moved to Tempe. She thought relocating to the desert would allow her to continue investigating the water-shortage issues she encountered in Bolivia. However, Wutich quickly realized that although the desert is geographically water scarce, households largely are not.

“The kinds of questions I had been asking were not at all relevant here. It was a big shock to me,” Wutich said.

This is just one example of the many ways that attitudes, perceptions and experiences related to water can vary tremendously across cultures. In the academic world, this is called ethnohydrology, a field that seeks to understand the shared norms, knowledge and human universals about water.

Working with her colleague Alexandra Brewis-Slade, a President's Professor and director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at ASU, Wutich initiated the Global Ethnohydrology Study (GES). GES is a multi-year, multi-site, interdisciplinary research project. Since 2006, the project has engaged undergraduate and graduate-level students and conducted cross-cultural research primarily in four locations: Bolivia, the U.S. (Phoenix), New Zealand and Fiji.

These sites were chosen based on Wutich and Brewis-Slade’s research expertise. The locations also have attributes that make them interesting for cross-cultural comparison. For example, Arizona is water scarce in that it’s a desert, but resource rich in that there are relatively good systems in place to make sure everyone has access to water. On the flip side, Fiji has an abundance of water but lacks the infrastructure to distribute it to those in need.

The goal of GES is to understand how beliefs around water access evolve in different cultural contexts. By comparing the experiences of different cultures, Wutich and her colleagues hope to learn what conservation and distribution strategies have worked in the past and which ones have failed.

This information is important to have — now more than ever. Experts predict that by 2050, more than half the world’s population will live in water-scarce areas, and about a billion people won’t have enough water to survive. That’s like the entire population of Africa dying of thirst.

Just solutions

One of the main areas of GES research focuses on fairness in water access across cultures. Wutich says rationing water in a country is like allocating salary within a company. At work, people care about the amount of money they get and whether it seems fair compared with their co-workers. Anthropologists call this idea distributive justice.

Employees also want the rules that govern income distribution to be fair. This is known as procedural justice. In the context of rationing water, these concepts are important to people everywhere, regardless of whether their country is water scarce or has plenty of resources.   

But there is another type of justice — interactional justice — that researchers have found matters more in some cultures than others. To understand interactional justice, imagine you are asking your boss for a raise. She listens to your pitch, pauses for a moment and then starts laughing. You try to explain why a pay bump is reasonable, but she simply rolls her eyes and says, “You’ll get a raise when I become president of the United States. How does that sound?” You leave her office feeling dejected and personally discriminated against.

Now imagine that instead of a raise, you were asking for water. In places like Cochabamba where many people don’t have enough water to survive, interactional justice becomes very important, and that type of discrimination is the most hurtful.

“It’s not just important to understand how much water an institution or society is distributing. It’s also important to consider — if I’m a water supplier deciding that you’re not going to get enough water to feed your child or to bathe your family — how am I telling you that? How am I acting toward you when I say that?” Wutich explained.

Water paths

Another research project within GES explores the water solutions people support in different environments. Wutich breaks solutions down into hard paths — things that involve engineering and infrastructure, like building a water-treatment plant, and soft paths — such as education or social strategies, like a family collecting rainwater.  

In the low-resource, water-scarce sites like Cochabamba, Wutich says people are completely tapped out on soft-path solutions.

“Anything they could self-organize to do, any way they could change their behavior to accommodate low water quality or low water provision, they’ve already done,” she said.

Asking a struggling Bolivian family to conserve water by washing their clothes less often would be like asking a single mom of three to pick up a third job — not physically possible. In Cochabamba and other low-resource areas, communities have done all they can to be resourceful and efficient. They are now in need of hard-path solutions to make sustainable water access a reality.

However, soft-path solutions are a great option in the wealthier research sites like Phoenix and New Zealand. Wutich and her colleagues have found there is public support in developed countries for inexpensive and flexible strategies, such as improved education around water issues.

One way to conserve fresh water is to re-use wastewater. However, many people have the same gut reaction to drinking wastewater as they do to eating bugs. There is a “yuck factor” that can be difficult to overcome. Part of that visceral reaction comes from a learned cultural norm, Wutich says. If a water solution is to be successful, it must take into account the people it aims to serve. That’s why cross-cultural ethnohydrology research is critical.

“Maybe instead of exporting our solutions, we need to be thinking about importing solutions that are coming from other societies,” Wutich said.

For example, take the Bolivian squatter settlement. Living without enough water has forced them to make every drop count — often more than once. This can be detrimental, as with the mother using dirty river water to bathe her toddler. But it can also provide lessons on how we can all be more efficient.

“For example, clean water there is used to wash laundry. Once that water is soapy and mildly dirty, it is reused to do a first scrub of bathrooms or floors. Once that washing is over, the dirty water is pushed out the door and into yards to water plants,” Wutich says.

Meanwhile, households in the U.S. send all their used water down the drain.

“Better graywater reuse systems could help us reuse this water more efficiently for tasks like gardening,” Wutich said.

GES findings like these can bring perspectives from one culture into solutions for another, helping us work more effectively together to conserve our most precious resource.

Learn more about water research at ASU. 

Written by Allie Nicodemo, Knowledge Enterprise Development

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Equipping parents, care providers with feeding-disorder help

ASU's program will provide comprehensive education for parents to practitioners.
First-of-its-kind ASU certificate program will consist of three online courses.
June 9, 2016

ASU develops certificate program to educate, act as clearinghouse of information from experts on little-understood disorders

Heidi Van der Molen doesn’t look back at her son Haydn’s early years with much sentimentality.

Besides the restless nights, countless visits to the doctor’s office and desperately trying to find an official diagnosis for his condition, there was a much more serious matter at hand: getting Haydn to eat.

“It was exhausting and emotionally draining because I’d spend every two hours pumping breast milk and every three hours trying to get him to drink,” said Van der Molen (pictured above with Hadyn). “… It makes you feel like a horrible mother because you can’t feed your child.”

Six and a half years later, Haydn, who has been diagnosed with 18q deletion syndrome18q deletion syndrome is a chromosomal condition that results when a piece of chromosome 18 is missing. The condition can lead to a wide variety of symptoms among affected individuals, including intellectual disability and delayed development., is still struggling to eat orally.

“He doesn't bring food to his mouth and needs support when drinking from a cup because he simply doesn’t have the skill level yet,” Van der Molen said. “There also aren’t a lot of trained individuals who can help us because what may work for one child may not work for another.”

The Van der Molens are not alone. It is estimated that more than 5 million school-age children in the United States have difficulty swallowing food, and over 1 million children ages birth to 5.

It’s a disorder that Van der Molen would like to see the medical community take more seriously. Today she is program director for Feeding Matters, a Scottsdale-based nonprofit whose mission is to bring pediatric feeding disorders to the forefront.

Feeding Matters helped spark a new certificate program offered by Arizona State University aimed at health-care professionals, students and parents to increase awareness of pediatric feeding disorders. The online program will be designed as a clearinghouse of information, drawing together a diversity of experts and parents.

Heidi Van der Molen and her son, Haydn

Heidi Van der Molen tries to give her 6-year-old son Hadyn some vanilla chia pudding made with coconut milk at the headquarters of Feeding Matters in Scottsdale on May 26. Van de Molen is the group’s program manager. Hadyn was born with a rare chromosomal disorder, which affects his ability to swallow. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“Despite the prevalence of pediatric feeding disorders and the impact it has on nutrition and development, not a single interdisciplinary online education program exists anywhere within the United States or internationally to combat them,” said Denise Stats-Caldwell, a clinical associate professor and speech-language pathologist in ASU’s Department of Speech and Hearing Science in the College of Health Solutions.

“Our goal is to get the word out to parents that if their child is struggling to eat and they’re being told they’ll grow out of it, there are resources available to them.”

And thanks to a recent $60,000 grant from Women and Philanthropy, a philanthropic program of the ASU Foundation, Stats-Caldwell will see that goal come to fruition in the fall of 2017.

Following the collection of expert materials, ASU and Feeding Matters will join forces to develop three online certificate courses for allied health professionals in collaboration with local and national experts, and the parents of children experiencing feeding difficulties.

The program got started last year when ASU sent a questionnaire to approximately 250 people, including physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, psychologists, educators, caregivers, behavior analysts, lactation consultants and early-service coordinators.

Almost all of the respondents indicated a current need for continuing education in the area of pediatric feeding disorders.

Director of Feeding Matters Chris Linn

“It’s an opportunity to provide education to medical professionals, who in my opinion are desperate and hungry for knowledge in this area,” said Chris Linn, director of Feeding Matters. “If they’ve become an expert in feeding at all, it’s because they’ve gone out and have educated themselves.”

Van der Molen said a large part of the problem is that there is no standard care for identifying, evaluating and managing pediatric feeding disorders because doctors are so busy.

“If you think about how busy pediatricians are, they only have a certain amount of time each day with patients,” Van Der Molen said. “They have standards and protocols to follow, and there’s not a whole lot they can do. Much of what they learn about pediatric feeding disorders is learned on the job.”

Stats-Caldwell said medical practitioners often lack the resources necessary for early intervention and case management on pediatric feeding disorders, and it’s difficult for professionals to collaborate with each other.

“We’ll be developing a curriculum that addresses the long-term goal of providing comprehensive education for ASU students, practicing professionals and parents of the children experiencing feeding difficulties,” Stats-Caldwell said. “The idea will be that anyone can take these classes, from the general public to the advanced practitioner.”

The first-of-its-kind certificate program will include live and recorded lectures, case studies, and videos of service provision across discipline type with experts from the fields of medicine, nursing, speech-language pathology, nutrition and psychology.

After the certificate program makes its debut next fall, Stats-Caldwell said the department will develop additional educational modules at the graduate and undergraduate level as well as parent training supported by fees for the courses.

Linn said a certificate program may sound like humble beginnings, but it’s the start of something big for pediatric feeding disorders.

“People have said to us, ‘You do realize you have 10 to 30 years of hard work ahead of you, right?’ and we do,” Linn said. “But somebody’s gotta do it, and we have to start somewhere. It’s an uphill battle, but we’re doing it and we couldn’t have a better or more courageous partner in ASU.

“We have a saying here, ‘We chisel at the mountain.’ I think it’ll come to huge fruition.”

Reporter , ASU News


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Pathways to success for Native students

NASAI event gathers tribal leaders, education professionals to collaborate.
Conference held at ASU aims to help Native students find pathways to success.
June 8, 2016

Native American Student Advocacy Institute conference held at ASU addresses important issues facing indigenous students

Two heads are better than one. Gather a whole roomful of bright minds and there’s no telling what can be accomplished.

Arizona State University and the College Board hosted the annual Native American Student Advocacy Institute (NASAI) National Conference on ASU’s Tempe campus this week. The two-day conference brought together tribal leaders, community representatives and educational professionals from throughout the nation to collaborate and share strategies and best practices to close the educational gap in the American Indian community.

NASAI is sponsored by the College Board, a national non-profit organization devoted to connecting students to college success and opportunity. Each year, the College Board helps more than 7 million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success.

The NASAI conference covered such topics such as financial aid, teaching strategies and facilitating the transition to a four-year university. ASU President Michael Crow addressed attendees and discussed ASU’s commitment to support, retain and graduate American Indian students.

Attendees at the conference also viewed an early screening of the video below — ASU students and alumni offer a greeting in their Native language and share their purpose and goals for the future.

Conference speakers included the Honorable Diane Humetewa, U.S. District Judge of Arizona; Shana Brown, teacher, author, curriculum designer; and Amanda R. Tachine with the ASU Center for Indian Education.

“ASU is honored to host this important convening of thought leaders from across Indian Country to address the important issues facing Indigenous students,” said Bryan Brayboy, special adviser to the president on American Indian initiatives at ASU.

There are 22 American Indian tribal nations in the state of Arizona. Through workshops such as the RECHARGE Conference, ASU provides Native American middle and high school students the tools and resources for a bright educational future, helping them to envision themselves at the university.

In the past decade, ASU has increased American Indian/Alaska Native enrollment by more than 30 percent, enrolling more than 2,000 students during the 2015-2016 school year. The university continues to evolve — and collaborate at events such as these — to increase the number of Native students enrolled in institutions of higher learning.

Once at ASU, there are a variety of resources to help students achieve their full potential and succeed through graduation. In May, 354 degrees were conferred to American Indian students, a number that ASU aims to increase as the university forges forward in providing an accessible, affordable, quality education and increase the social mobility of all the residents of Arizona.

Top photo: ASU President Michael Crow speaks at the NASAI conference Tuesday on the Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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Arts and culture harmonize with health

May 26, 2016

ASU music project helps people living with Alzheimer’s connect to long-term memories, emotions

A violinist bows an expectant note as she tunes her instrument alongside other Phoenix Symphony musicians. They assume the “ready” position, waiting for the cue to begin.

The small group sitting before them in a semicircle is a somewhat unique audience: It is made up of men and women living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, their professional caregivers and a few family members. They are participants in Arizona State University’s Music & Memory project at the Huger Mercy Living Center, an assisted-living facility in Phoenix.

The musicians begin their piece, an energetic and upbeat melody. Some of the men and women clap along to the lively tune as music fills the room. Others, at first, look past the performers as if they are not there.

As the concert continues, the musicians vary the repertoire with pieces that are triumphantly loud or quietly meditative. Soon, even the people who seemed unaware of the performance become actively engaged.

Music can help people living with Alzheimer’s connect to long-term memories and emotions in a positive way, according to David Coon, associate vice provost and professor in ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

“Music is capable of improving the quality of life of individuals with dementia, even at the end of their life,” said Coon.

Or as one family member eloquently states: “Music is the key to their memory door.”

Listening to music can also be a positive experience for the loved ones and caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s, who can be under a great deal of stress. Family members described music as a shared experience and a vital communication tool across the trajectory of Alzheimer’s. “Music is the guide in many ways ... for them, for us or for anyone,” one of them noted.

people playing music at assisted home

Photos courtesy of the Phoenix Symphony.

The power of music to evoke emotions and memories and to ease suffering is at the heart of the Music & Memory project, a partnership between ASU health and music therapy researchers, the Phoenix Symphony and the Huger Mercy Living Center. It is one of several medical humanities efforts at ASU that bring together experts from health-related fields, arts and humanities to create new types of care and outreach that have a profound impact on people’s lives.

Coon leads the Music & Memory project with colleagues Robin Rio, director of the ASU Music Therapy Clinic in the School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and Marianne McCarthy, associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

In the beginning of the project, the musicians performed planned selections, but progressively the music became more improvised and responsive to the residents. From fight songs to hymns to complex classical pieces, the musicians took cues from the residents about what music to play. When someone requested a polka, the performers readily complied.

The study evaluated the effect of live music on the moods of residents, caregivers, musicians and loved ones before and after performances. The caregivers, musicians and loved ones rated their own moods, while a nurse or activity coordinator evaluated the residents.

In addition, researchers collected saliva samples from participants before and after some symphony performances. Scientists from ASU’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research analyzed these samples for known biomarkers of stress, giving further insight into the effect of music on mood.

As Alzheimer’s advances, a person needs help with even the most personal tasks, such as bathing. This can be stressful for both resident and caregiver. Knowing this, the researchers used bathing as an event for assessing stress levels. They collected saliva samples before and after bath time on days with and without a symphony performance.

people dancing to music

Their results indicate that listening to live music improved the mood of people living with Alzheimer’s immediately after performances and also likely helped to ease stress at other times, such as during a bath. The moods of musicians, caregivers and loved ones were also more likely to be positive after a performance. The musicians said the project left a profound impression on them both personally and with regard to their music.

Watching the performances, Coon witnessed the emotional impacts firsthand. For example, he remembers one couple getting up to dance to “their song.”

Another time, a friend of one of the residents entered the room during a performance, but paused when he saw his friend actively engaging with the music.

With tears in his eyes, the man said to Coon, “I haven’t seen [my friend] like this in five years. He is alive and connected in a way that I haven’t seen in five years. I’m going to leave and not let him know I was here today, because I want him to stay in this moment and not be pulled into a moment with me.”

Kelsey Wharton

Science Writer , Knowledge Enterprise Development

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Training for Native nations' financial managers

#ASU certification program helps tribal managers navigate complex issues.
May 24, 2016

60 tribal managers from around country at ASU this week for certification as part of executive education program

Anni Leaman has a respectable-sized to-do list when she returns home to Massachusetts later this week.

She’s going to create a couple of new finance committees, check into whether her tribe can issue bonds on construction projects, find innovative ways to reduce her tribe’s debt and establish a first-time fraud hotline.

And that’s just for starters. Her employer, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, is paving the way for a massive 150-acre gaming and entertainment venue in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Leaman was hired by the tribe almost 10 months ago and is a newbie when it comes to working for a tribal government.

“It takes a certain personality to work for a tribal community, and there are lots of challenges,” Leaman said. “I’m so glad I got this training.”

Leaman is referring to the Tribal Financial Certification Training offered through Arizona State University’s American Indian Policy InstituteThe American Indian Policy Institute is based in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (AIPI), in partnership with the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA). A certification session is taking place this week on the Tempe campus, in which Leaman is a participant.

It’s part of ASU’s Tribal Economic Leadership Program, which is designed to help Indian nations navigate the layers of complicated red tape while also offering educational and professional-development training for tribal government staff, members and leaders to support the long-term economic sustainability of nations.

Tribal Financial Manager Certification conference attendees

Anthony Falcon, who was recently
named acting treasurer for the
Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin,
took the training this week at
ASU to get up to speed.

Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Most people are under the impression that Native nations operate under the veil of sovereignty and are financially accountable to no one.

In fact, tribal governments deal with many more layers of bureaucratic complexity, regulations and compliance issues than most municipalities because of the unique relationship they share with federal, state, county and local authorities.

“There’s a demand for a more systematic and consistent training to understand the relationships that exist between tribes, federal, state, county and local governments,” said Traci Morris, director of ASU’s American Indian Policy Institute.

“Our training not only helps tribal governments through advocacy and leadership development but brings together members of tribes throughout the country to improve networking and improve nation building.”

Approximately 60 attendees from more than 40 tribes around the country — some as far away as Oklahoma, Washington, Alaska, Florida and Massachusetts — came to ASU’s Tempe campus this week to receive their Tribal Financial Manager Certification. The three-day training program, which will end on Wednesday, covered a plethora of complex financial topics. They include Federal Indian Law and Policy, Governmental Accounting in a Tribal Setting, Federal Financial Compliance, Tribal Enterprise-Accounting for Propriety Funds, and Federal, State & Tribal Taxation.

Some believe accounting for tribal governments is much more sophisticated and complex than most municipalities.

“There are a lot of nuances in financial government within a tribal government, and the complexities that we have as a sovereign nation centers around our trust relationship with the U.S. and federal government,” said Maria Dadgar, executive director of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc., which has an $18 million annual operating budget.

“Not only do we deal with federal, state, and local entities, but there are various organizations within our member tribes. It’s a lot of reading, memorizing, learning and monitoring.”

The program started in 2009 as a vision of NAFOA, and the AIPI took up the effort to develop and offer the program. With seed funding from the Arizona Board of Regents, the AIPI gathered a team of nationally recognized experts on financial management and Indian law.

Anthony Falcon, who was recently named acting treasurer for the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, said he took the training this week at ASU to get up to speed.

“When I thought about what kind of skills I want to have as far as being active treasurer, I looked at the training and the topics we were going to cover and it’s just what I wanted,” Falcon said. “I want to be able to take information back with me to be able to provide timely and accurate information to our decision makers to help determine what’s best for our investments and business decisions.”

Falcon said his 7,600-member tribe might be small but that they have an operating budget in the “hundreds of millions.” He says that kind of cash flow requires constant vigilance.

In addition to monitoring accounts, investments and improvement projects, he will oversee how grants are administered and whether they follow all guidelines, and he makes sure that all cooperative agreements with state and local governments follows compliance.

That sort of multitasking is not only a tough job, but proof that Indian Country is now big city when it comes to finances.

“Tribes feel that they do have the capacity from within to do complex financial work and are able to contribute and give back to the state economically,” Dadgar said. “It’s not just in Arizona, but in every state.”

Top photo: Attendees participate in the Tribal Financial Managers Certification program at the Tempe campus' Memorial Union on March 23. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Can 50 percent of the power grid come from renewables?

ASU engineers say better forecasting, management is key

May 23, 2016

Renewable energy is becoming increasingly cost competitive in comparison to traditional fossil-fuel generation. So why is its impact on the power grid limited?

The fact is, renewable-energy sources are inherently variable and uncertain. The wind blows, and then it stops. The sun shines, and then a cloud comes. Faculty members in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering are using a $3 million Department of Energy (DOE) grant to accelerate technological advancements that improve the coordination between renewables and other resources within the power grid. Photo: Faculty members in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering are using a $3 million Department of Energy grant to accelerate technological advancements that improve the coordination between renewables and other resources within the power grid. Photo by

Fossil-fuel generators are spared this fluctuation, so the ebbs and flows of renewable generation must be managed differently to remain effective within the power grid.

Arizona State University professors Junshan Zhang, Kory Hedman, Vijay Vittal and Anna Scaglione are utilizing a $3 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to accelerate technological advancements that improve the coordination between renewables and other resources within the power grid.

The research team, all faculty members in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, is collaborating with Sandia National Laboratories, Nexant Inc. and PJM Interconnection.

What is their guiding philosophy?

You can’t stop the clouds from coming, but you can improve the design of the power grid so that it is better equipped to manage renewable energy and offset the use of fossil fuels.

“It goes against the purpose of integrating clean, renewable resources in the power grid if their fluctuations in power generation must be compensated for by excessive ramping of fossil-fuel units,” said Hedman.

“To depend more on the electric power coming from renewable sources, rather than fossil-fuel generators, we will need to change how the power grid works,” said Scaglione.

Addressing limitations in the power grid

The fluctuating output of renewables makes it difficult for a power-grid operator to forecast how much energy to expect from them.

Because of this, operators generally limit the expected supply of renewably energy to the power grid to satisfy established operating limits.

“In certain cases this could result in renewable energy going unused,” said Vittal, which ends up costing the end consumer more due to the operating cost of expensive emergency reserves.

The ASU grant was one of 12 grants awarded through DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Network Optimized Distributed Energy Systems (NODES) program.

Through improved technology and discoveries, the NODES program aims to achieve 50 percent or more of power grid usage from renewable-energy resources.

“The current design of the grid is prepared for the worst-case scenario, so it is a grand challenge for the grid to handle a high renewable penetration level,” said Zhang, electrical engineering professor and principal investigator for the project.

For the ASU team, the goal of their NODES project, titled Stochastic Optimal Power Flow (OPF), is to create a suite of forecasting algorithms to better account for renewable sources at all levels of the power-grid operation process.

“By taking into account the uncertainty associated with renewable resources, the project takes important strides in overcoming key obstacles in integrating renewable resources,” said Vittal.

“This is one of very few efforts focusing on the integration of this kind of variable power into the grid,” said Zhang.

The project focuses on three key areas: better forecasting of the power generation of renewables, real-time management at the grid level, and integrating power generated by consumers into the grid.

The holistic nature of this project, having never been attempted before, promises the unique benefits of a disruptive technological advancement — making it possible to achieve 50 percent renewable-resource penetration in the national power grid.

Improved forecasting capacities and real-time management

Professor Junshan Zhang, principal investigator of the grant, is creating a suite of forecasting algorithms to better account for renewable sources at all levels of the power grid operation process. Photographer: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

Professor Junshan Zhang, principal
investigator of the grant, is creating
a suite of forecasting algorithms
to better account for renewable
sources at all levels of the
power-grid operation process.

Zhang and Vittal have developed a suite of data analytics-based forecasting algorithms for wind and solar generation that improve the forecast accuracy of distributed energy resources (DERs).

DERs, which include renewable technologies, are smaller power sources that can be aggregated to meet power demand.

Since the implementation of DERs into the power grid relies on aggregation, accurate forecasting is paramount.

Zhang anticipates an improvement of more than 20 percent in the forecasting accuracy as a result of his improved algorithms.

By forecasting a statistical distribution of renewable power at a future time, these distributional forecasts better handle uncertainty than the existing “point forecast” paradigm, which gives only the value of renewable power at a future instance in time.

Distributional forecasts enable system operators to maintain an acceptable level of risk, reducing an otherwise wasted system energy reserve.

“More accurate forecasts of DERs give systems operators more flexibility” in determining an optimal output that still meets the economic, operational and system constraints, explained Zhang.

Another component of the project, led by Hedman, is the addition of real-time management at the grid level.

In addition to unprecedented visibility, flexibility and predictability, new stochastic algorithms enable real-time coordination between the DERs, the demand response and distributed storage in a comprehensive approach.

Hedman describes this effort as developing “a standalone tool that advises grid operators on various ancillary services needed to mitigate renewable-resource fluctuations in real-time.”

“By doing so, we are able to avoid the market pricing barriers that exist for stochastic programming, and concurrently enable Stochastic OPF to have an impact,” said Zhang.

Rethinking electric power management

While Zhang, Vittal and Hedman are focused on equipping power-systems operations to handle larger degrees of uncertainty, Scaglione is looking at consumption in the power grid more broadly.

She points out the problem that the supply and demand of electric power must be continuously balanced. For Scaglione, this constraint is as significant as the focus on using energy efficiently.

“As users, we are unaware today of the congestion or [renewable production] shortages that may exist at every instant of time on the grid,” she said.

“Not only must operators manage the uncertainty and variability of renewable resources, but they must also be mindful of congestion limiting the transport of electric power,” said Hedman.

According to the research team, smart energy usage is not necessarily a matter of consuming less power, but rather shifting the use of power to when it is available.

This could include controlling the energy consumption of flexible appliances, such as heating and air-conditioning systems, whose electric power can be shifted in time without people taking notice.

Currently, our air-conditioning systems, for example, turn on and off to maintain customer satisfaction without taking into account fluctuations in the power grid.

“But the consumption of these appliances could be changed to not focus on minimizing energy, but on alleviating congestion in the grid,” said Scaglione. This congestion, or imbalance between appliances and generated power, could be relieved by deferring consumption, rather than turning up or down fossil-fuel generators.

Another example is charging an electric car.

The car needs to be charged when the user intends to drive it, but the charging doesn’t have to start the moment it is plugged into the charger in many cases.

“The hours when our appliances are drawing power can shift or be interrupted without any inconvenience to better take advantage of periods of renewable-energy abundance in the electric grid,” said Scaglione.

Adding electric storage to homes and buildings could also help consumers to better use power when it is available — though an affordable solution to adding electric storage options to households is a reality not yet reached.

“The technological solutions may already exist — the challenge is to make them grid-friendly,” said Scaglione.

To compensate for shortages or surpluses of renewable generation would require power-systems operations to manage thousands to millions of subsystems — electric batteries, air-conditioners, smart lighting, electric vehicle charging and more — instead of a relatively small fleet of large fossil-fuel generators.

Scaglione is developing computational models and interfaces that aim to harmonize the multitude of subsystems within a collective system, allowing better management and understanding of the global state of production in the grid.

“My research envisions how we can treat these subsystems as a large reservoir that can be controlled to follow the ebbs and flows of renewable generation, while delivering the desired performance to the consumer,” she added.

The research team includes professors (from left to right) Junshan Zhang, Anna Scaglione, Vijay Vittal and Kory Hedman.

The research team includes ASU professors (from left) Junshan Zhang, Anna Scaglione, Vijay Vittal and Kory Hedman.

Economic and environmental benefits

The team is on track to get more renewable energy into the power grid, and subsequently into people’s homes, businesses and devices, while maintaining reliability and resiliency.

These improvements could dramatically offset thermal generation and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

This is due to the fact that the grid “will use significantly more renewable resources without posing challenges in the reliability of the power delivery service,” said Scaglione.

“With the newly imposed restrictions by the Environmental Protection Agency, in regards to clean energy, it is imperative to increase the penetration of renewable resources in the grid,” said Vittal.

Economically, improved management could also reduce the amount of power reserves on standby in case of unforeseen intermittency, valued at saving $3.3 billion per year according to ARPA-E.

The effect of this new technology could be game changing, even disruptive, in ushering in a new era in the electric-power industry.

“It will open the floodgates to integration of renewables and other DERs with the knowledge that the full potential of these renewable resources could soon be realized,” said Zhang.

Written by Rose Serago with contributions from Gary Campbell

Rose Gochnour Serago

Communications Program Coordinator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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Embodying the true spirit of difference-making

ASU prof aims to change narrative about alcoholism: a disease, not a weakness.
May 20, 2016

ASU professor creates positive change by fighting the stigma associated with alcoholism, recovery on college campuses

Driven by a passion to educate people about alcoholism and recovery, Arizona State University professor Linda Lederman aims to make a difference in the lives of many by fighting the stigma of weakness and lack of willpower. 

“My work is designed to change the narrative,” said Lederman, a communication scholar who studies health issues. “To get people to understand that alcoholism is a deadly disease, for which there is no cure — but it can be put into daily remission.”

Linda Lederman, professor of health and human communication

Lederman (left) has been selected to receive the 2016 Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award presented by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The annual award was established through generous contributions of faculty, staff and friends of ASU to honor a faculty member who personifies the spirit of difference-making as demonstrated by Krahenbuhl, a former dean of the college.

“Dr. Lederman’s scholarship, service and teaching are seamlessly connected to the health and well-being of the broader ASU community,” wrote Cameron Thies and Mary Margaret Fonow, two distinguished professors and school directors who nominated Lederman for this prestigious award.

A professor and director of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, Lederman is nationally recognized for her use-inspired research on alcohol-abuse prevention, alcoholism and collegiate recovery, which has been funded by grants from federal agencies totaling more than $8 million. Her books include “Changing the Culture of College Drinking” and “Voices of Recovery from the Campus,” a collection of stories from people who began their recovery while undergraduate students.

Prior to joining ASU in 2006, Lederman was a professor of communication at Rutgers University, a faculty member of Rutgers Center for Alcohol Studies and the founding co-director of the Center for Communication and Health Issues, which focused on uncovering the role of communication in alcohol use and abuse. 

“Narrative and stories often bridge the ways in which we think about things,” said Lederman. “So I’m trying to destigmatize alcoholism and recovery on the college campus by changing the story. Putting a face on it, a real face, by sharing real stories of people in recovery.” 

Her work focuses on changing two narratives: the culture of college drinking and the negative stereotype associated with alcoholics. The dominant narratives — everybody drinks in college and alcoholics lack willpower — are misrepresentations of reality, said Lederman.

“Narrative and stories often bridge the ways in which we think about things. So I’m trying to destigmatize alcoholism and recovery on the college campus by changing the story. Putting a face on it, a real face, by sharing real stories of people in recovery.”
— ASU professor Linda Lederman

Lederman has designed an undergraduate course, “Communication, Alcoholism and Recovery,” to educate students on alcoholism as a disease and to show how communication can help people understand and recover from the disease.

“I teach the course in a way that encourages students to become messengers,” said Lederman. “By engaging in what people do, talking to one another, they can help other people re-examine their own misperceptions about alcoholism and recovery.”

Lederman has also created the DYK10? (Do You Know 10?) campaign with her students from this course, which will launch in the fall. The campaign is designed to inform students that 1 in 10 people who drink have alcoholism and need help (if they continue to drink) or support (if they are in recovery).

She will present at a national conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in August, so health educators can use her campaign as a tool for prevention and alcohol awareness on college campuses.

“Through education and intervention, her work has inspired recovery professionals to action on behalf of our students,” said Lederman’s nominators for the difference maker award. “She is one of the most active and innovative people on our campus.” 

Lederman’s impact extends beyond the ASU community. She was invited to give a colloquium about her work on alcoholism and collegiate recovery at the University of Arizona Department of Communication earlier this year. In addition, the Empty Space Theatre presented a performance titled “Recovery,” based on her books and journal articles about communication, alcoholism and recovery. She also was invited back to Rutgers University to be a speaker at the Rutgers Recovery Graduation earlier this month.

“I am honored to have received this award,” said Lederman. “There is nothing I can think of that would mean more to me than winning an award as a difference maker because my life and work are dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives.”

Top photo by Diego Lopez

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After Paris, the first steps

City officials from around the world get sustainability training from ASU.
May 19, 2016

ASU-led workshop teaches city officials from around the globe how to inventory sources of greenhouse gas emissions

The Paris climate talks last December were a lot like graduation.

First, elation. Almost 200 countries reaching an agreement! Finally, victory after the disappointments in Kyoto and Copenhagen! There’s hope!

Then, depression. Reduction targets will be voluntary. Countries aren’t obligated to put their climate action plans into actual action. Is anything really going to get done, by anybody?

Yes. And the first steps are being helped out by Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Last month more than 20 city officials from around the world attended a training workshop in Washington, D.C., to learn how to inventory sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Once that task is complete, they can knuckle down to the task of eliminating the worst offenders.

Twenty-one city officials attended, from countries including Argentina, India, South Africa, Korea, Bolivia, China and Bangladesh. They had titles including senior engineer, project monitor and secretary of the environment.

All of them were World Bank clients. The World Bank mainly finances Third World infrastructure projects. Bank officials are concerned about the effect of climate change on projects they’ve financed.

Of the more than 180 countries that agreed to the Paris accords, the World Bank works with more than 130 of them.

“In terms of the World Bank, they want to loan money to their clients who are going to mitigate climate impacts,” said Raj Buch, who led the workshop. “If they teach them the right way to do the inventory, they’ll prioritize the right things to fix in their local communities.”

Buch is a practice lead for the Sustainability Solutions Extension Service, a consulting group within ASU that provides customized advice and practical solutions to business and government sectors applying university-based research, knowledge and capabilities.

“The course was to teach them how to do that inventory,” Buch said.

The officials will look at landfills, transportation, mass transit, industry.

“These are the different things that are emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” Buch said. “When you do this inventory, you’ll identify all the hot spots for these emissions. ... If you’re producing a lot of methane gas in a landfill, you’re not going to put the organic material in the landfill. You need to collect that methane, suck it out of the landfill and convert it to energy.”

The World Bank put a priority on starting these inventories after Paris. Bank officials approached the school and asked it to design a curriculum and deliver the class. The bank invited the participants to the workshop in Washington.

After they return home and complete their work, they’ll be able to return to the bank and present their case for a loan to solve the most pressing issues.

Buch earned a doctorate in sustainability at ASU. Part of his job is to apply the theories he learned to the daily life of a business, individual or organization. By analyzing daily functions with a sustainability perspective, Buch and his teams can help organizations envision sustainable futures; teach employees how to communicate sustainability to clients; upgrade facilities with more efficient technologies; or develop sustainable products.

Buch said the course will be produced in an online format so it can go to scale, as well as being cost- and time-effective.

“It will be developed for online delivery so people can do it on their own time and pass the test and become certified,” he said.

Although the workshop is happening quickly after the Paris talks in December, ASU has been preparing for it for longer than that.

“This is something ASU had led with for 10 years, and it’s finally starting to take hold,” Buch said.

Top photo by Corne Snijders

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News